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Thread: So many mistakes...

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    Alaska, The Madness! 1stimestar's Avatar
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    Default So many mistakes...

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    'When you find my body, please call my husband,' wrote dying hiker lost along the Appalachian Trail
    Author: Michael E. Miller, The Washington Post Updated: 15 hours ago Published 15 hours ago
    Geraldine Largay knew she was doomed.

    It had been two weeks since she left the Appalachian Trail to go to the bathroom and lost her way; two weeks since she had wandered deeper and deeper into the woods of northwest Maine in search of a cellphone signal to message for help; two weeks since she had pitched her tent underneath a copse of hemlock trees atop a ridge; two weeks since she was supposed to meet her husband, waiting for her in his SUV on Route 27.

    Largay's food was running low. Her water, too.

    So the 66-year-old retired nurse sat down and wrote a note to whoever might find her - after she was dead.

    "When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry," she wrote in the note, dated Aug. 6, 2013. "It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me - no matter how many years from now."

    A photo of Geraldine Largay taken July 22, 2013, the day she disappeared. (Maine Warden Service) A photo of Geraldine Largay taken July 22, 2013, the day she disappeared. (Maine Warden Service)
    Largay was right. More than two years would pass before a forester would stumble upon her remains, hidden beneath the hemlocks barely two miles from the trail.

    Details of her death emerged Wednesday when the Maine Warden Service released its report on her July 22, 2013, disappearance.

    The report, first reported by the Boston Globe, is painful to read.

    It shows that Largay survived at least 26 days - far longer than previously thought - before passing away from exposure and lack of food.

    The report also includes agonizing information on Largay's desperate attempts to contact her husband, who was waiting for her just a few miles away when she got lost. It acknowledges that rescuers came within 100 yards of her location on several occasions, only to miss her. And it reveals Largay penned messages to her loved ones in a notebook as her strength faded during her final days.

    In a way, the report is the closing chapter to a three-year saga reminiscent of "Into the Wild," Jon Krakauer's 1996 book on the death of hitchhiker Christopher McCandless in Alaska.

    Like McCandless, Largay was a free spirit driven to explore the American wilderness, despite the risks.

    "She embraced life, and she would want anyone who reads about this to - that this would serve as a reason to do it, or to do something else that they were thinking about, versus to sit on the sidelines and play safe," George Largay said of his late wife after her bones were found last year, according to the Tennessean.

    "She was absolutely where she wanted to be, doing absolutely what she wanted to be doing with every fiber of her being," he said.

    Gerry, as she was known, and George were living in Tennessee when, in the spring of 2013, she decided she wanted to hike the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail.

    Gerry was no beginner. She had spent years attending hiking courses and camping in the Smoky Mountains. Fellow hikers described her as experienced and level-headed. Her trail nickname was "Inchworm" for her slow but steady pace.

    Hiking the AT was on her bucket list, but she was realistic about how to achieve it. She enlisted her frequent backwoods partner, Jane Lee, to hike the trail and her husband to meet her every day or two to provide supplies, a pep talk or a lift to a motel for a hot shower.

    From April to July, Gerry and Jane hiked roughly 1,000 miles of trail from Tennessee to New England, with George tagging along in his SUV. Just as they entered the White Mountains of New Hampshire, however, Jane had to abandon the hike to tend to a family emergency back home.


    Before she left, Jane tried to persuade Gerry to go back home with her. They could finish the hike together the next summer, she said.

    Gerry refused. She would hike on, by herself.

    She happened to go solo just as she was entering one of the toughest parts of the trail. Western Maine's Mahoosuc Notch is "the wilderness version of a jungle gym with more painful repercussions," some hikers say.

    But Gerry made it, and on July 21, she once again prepared to leave her husband on a three-day, 32 mile trip over seven mountain peaks. As was his habit, George hiked with her a little way along the trail before saying goodbye.

    It was the last time he saw her alive.

    The night of July 21, Gerry slept in the Poplar Ridge Lean-To, a small wooden cabin with only three walls and a corrugated metal roof. There she met two female hikers headed in the opposite direction: Dottie Rust and her hiking partner, Regina Clark.

    The women fast became friends, cooking dinner together over portable stoves and trading stories, according to the Boston Globe. Gerry recounted her days as a nurse for the Air Force and family trips around the world. "She was just full of confidence and joy - a real delight to talk to," Rust told the Globe's Kathryn Miles.

    The next morning, Rust and Clark woke just in time to see Gerry finish her breakfast and shoulder her pack. She was headed eight miles north toward another lean-to, then 13 more miles the next day to meet George. Before they parted, Rust asked to snap a photo of her new friend.

    "It'll make the perfect Christmas card," Rust said, according to the Globe.

    Instead, the photo - which captured Gerry wearing a bright red fleece and a huge smile just as she tightened her backpack straps - would be the last one taken of her.

    Several hours later, Largay stopped somewhere along the trail to go to the bathroom.

    Then she got lost.

    When she couldn't find her way back to the trail, marked with blue and white blazes, Gerry tried to send a text message to her husband.

    "In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost," she typed into her blue Samsung sliding phone at 11:01 a.m. "Can u call [the Appalachian Mountain Club] to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. XOX."

    But there was no cellphone service in the remote stretch of forest and the message would not send.

    Instead of continuing to search for the trail, she wandered west in an attempt to find higher ground and cell tower coverage, according to the Warden Service report.

    She eventually found higher ground, but not phone reception. It's unclear where she spent her first night in the wild, but by her second day off the trail, she had reached the copse of hemlocks atop the ridge where she would die.

    At 4:18 p.m. that day, around the time when she was supposed to meet her husband on Route 27, she tried to send another text.

    "Lost since yesterday," she typed. "Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. XOX."

    Again, the message never sent.

    When Gerry never arrived at their designated meeting place, George began to get worried. But it was raining heavily and he figured she could have gotten delayed by the bad weather. The next day, July 24, however, he began asking passing hikers if they had seen her. When none had, he flagged down a passing cop car.

    "It was time to send up the flares," he told the Globe.

    Maine wardens initiated a search of likely spots, such as lean-tos and other resting places, but came back with nothing. Then they launched a full search and rescue.

    The operation would grow to become one of the longest and most expensive in state history. More than a hundred rescue workers searched a huge swath of forest around Largay's last known location. Wardens and state police deployed scent-sniffing dogs. Planes and helicopters scoured the terrain from above.

    At several points, a search team came within 100 yards -- a mere football field -- of finding Gerry, according to the report.

    Meanwhile, Gerry was atop the ridge, growing weaker with each passing day. She had strung up her shiny solar blanket in an apparent attempt to draw attention. She had also tried to make fires using the matches and lighters she kept in her backpack. There was a stream near her camp, but it's unclear whether she was able to find any food.

    Even as her energy waned, Gerry wrote letters to her family inside her notebook.
    Continued.
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    Alaska, The Madness! 1stimestar's Avatar
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    On Aug. 4, the 12th day of the search, rescuers announced they were scaling back the search. Gerry's husband and daughter, who had joined her father in Maine shortly after the search began, returned home. Later that week, George gave a news conference saying that he still held out hope for his wife's return, but realistically, it was time to move on.

    "The uncertainty is the toughest part," he told the Tennessean a few days later. "Until they find Gerry, there's always the unknown, and that's almost tougher than the known."

    In fact, his wife was still alive - although she, too, felt certain of her fate.

    Around the same time as George held his news conference, Gerry penned her note. Her phone had died that very day, severing her last possible line of communication with the world beyond the hemlocks and birch trees surrounding her camp.

    "Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to [my husband or daughter]," she added at the end of the note, which she tore from her notebook.

    Despite apparently being resigned to her death, Gerry kept on writing.

    For the next three days, she wrote entries underneath the date.

    Curiously, she then stopped writing for a week, before making one last entry on Aug. 18.

    She appears to have died shortly afterward, although it is impossible to be certain.

    On Oct. 11, 2015, 26 months after Geraldine Largay smiled for Rust's camera and strode out of sight, a forester working on an environmental impact statement stumbled upon her corpse.


    When wardens heard that a body had been found in that area of the trail, they immediately suspected it was Gerry's. Four days later, Lt. Kevin Adam, who had headed the search, arrived at the campsite.

    The campsite was "difficult to see unless you were right next to it," he wrote in his report.

    "I saw a flattened tent, with a green backpack outside of it and a human skull with what I believed to be a sleeping bag around it," Adam wrote. "I was 99 percent certain that this was Gerry Largay's."

    Inside the tent, investigators found Gerry's notebook. They began to read the entries out loud but then stopped.

    "I realized from listening to the passages being read that there were a lot of personal letters and compositions to family members inside the book," Adam wrote.

    Two weeks later, Adam and several other officials returned to the campsite with George, Kerry and other members of Gerry's family.

    The campsite was barely 20 minutes from a logging road.

    The family looked around at the campsite - the trees and mountains that had kept Gerry company in her final days - before leaving a cross where her tent had stood.

    Although the report released Wednesday sheds new light on Gerry's disappearance and death, her family members had already found some peace after the tragedy.

    "I no longer wake up thinking about Gerry's disappearance every morning," George told the Globe last year. "Now it takes a holiday or an anniversary or a certain Neil Diamond song on the radio."
    http://www.adn.com/a/2016/5/26/when-...lachian-trail/
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    A heart breaking tale. Certainly she made many many mistakes; under most conditions she would probably have survived them. It's sad to see how close she came to rescue only to have searchers miss her. I hope that finding and returning her body will bring her family closure and some measure of peace.

    Stories like this really drive home to me what a site like WSF is about! Think of how little it would have taken to save her; she'd probably be alive with just a story for the grandkids if she'd have had a whistle with her, or a GPS, even a compass and the skill to use it. If she'd have had a PLB she would have been very embarrassed to find how close she was to her husband but she would be alive.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    I hope that this helps bring closure to the family.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Another example that things can go sideways, quick.....Sounds like just major bad luck.

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    Hope the family is at least relieved.....
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    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
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    that's a sad story
    so the definition of a criminal is someone who breaks the law and you want me to believe that somehow more laws make less criminals?

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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Did we not recently have someone say that there was no wilderness left in the lower 48?

    That it is all parking lots and subdivisions.

    You can still get lost. You can still make a wrong turn and die of exposure and starvation.

    I have seen the beginning of this search on the cable show Northwoods Law, a series about the game wardens in Maine. Wardens are responsible from SAR in Maine. They scoured the woods looking for this woman for weeks.

    Now, what can we learn from this?

    What should she have done?

    Aside from remembering if you went up hill or down hill to use the BR, she could have left a visible back trail to follow.

    But the first thing I can think of is that she started 25 yards off the AT and died 2 miles off the trail. This concept of "self rescue" we see on TV is a dangerous trend to emulate. If she had stayed right where she started the rescue crews would have found her on day 3. By that time they were making so much noise on the Trail she would have heard them.

    In this case the poor woman was chasing the elusive cell phone signal, like a lake mirage in the desert. She abandoned long standing woodcraft to search for a way to make her technology work.

    And another sad thing is that one can be an expert backpacker, an experienced camper, and know not one thing about wilderness survival!
    Last edited by kyratshooter; 05-27-2016 at 08:26 PM.
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    Alaska, The Madness! 1stimestar's Avatar
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    Also, she had lighter and matches and could not make a fire big enough to be seen? That is probably because she was used to cooking with a white gas stove. One easily learned skill could have saved her.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1stimestar View Post
    Also, she had lighter and matches and could not make a fire big enough to be seen? That is probably because she was used to cooking with a white gas stove. One easily learned skill could have saved her.
    Friends say that she refused to learn to use a compass, for some reason. It's a strange tale with some weird twists. She's an experienced hiker, been hiking for years but gets lost going off trail to the bathroom? She must have done this dozens of times before, so what was different about this time? An experienced hiker figures out really quick how to find your way off the trail and back.

    And she tried to make fire? And apparently failed? What kind of experienced hiker hasn't often made a campfire using matches or ferro rod or some other simple method. It sounds to me like she was somebody who only hiked short sections of trail, never going more than a few yards off the trail, and never lighting a fire.

    What can we learn? Have a compass, a Topo map (all she had was a trail map), and know how to use it. Know, through experience, several ways to start a fire. Stop relying on GPS and cell phones. But do carry a Personal Locator Beacon. I have one, just in case.

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    I don't think somebody is an expert backpacker, or experienced camper if they don't know the basics of wilderness survival.

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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    We often forget that there is a completely different attitude toward the outdoors in other segments of the outdoor world.

    As an example, one of the top backpacking magazines did a pole of thousands of members for the top 10 mandatory backpacking items. Just like we do here quite often. Know what the #1 most important item was in every pole?

    A flashlight!

    In our poles it is always the knife.

    The backpackers recommended that one not take a knife into the field because they were useless with today's technology and dangerous, one might cut themselves.

    Compass work and maps are not needed because the trail guides are thorough and all legitimate hiking trails are well marked. Going off trail is unheard of and damages the ecosystem.

    When I was on the AT, 15 years ago, there were a lot of people that did not carry a stove. They were eating cold food out of tear open pouches. I never remember a single person building a fire at any time on the AT, except me, and that was when I was alone in a trail shelter. Other hikers often objected to the fire.

    So yes, one can be considered an expert camper and backpacker and log thousands of miles of hiking and countless nights in a tent and never build a campfire, never open the blade of a pocket knife, never look at a compass or top map.

    And I am sure the thought of snaring, butchering and cooking a rabbit or squirrel would turn most of their stomachs.

    Hard to believe, but there is a whole other bunch of crazies out there in our woods!
    Last edited by kyratshooter; 05-28-2016 at 01:16 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    We often forget that there is a completely different attitude toward the outdoors in other segments of the outdoor world.

    As an example, one of the top backpacking magazines did a pole of thousands of members for the top 10 mandatory backpacking items. Just like we do here quite often. Know what the #1 most important item was in every pole?

    A flashlight!

    In our poles it is always the knife.

    The backpackers recommended that one not take a knife into the field because they were useless with today's technology and dangerous, one might cut themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    So yes, one can be considered an expert camper and backpacker and log thousands of miles of hiking and countless nights in a tent and never build a campfire, never open the blade of a pocket knife, never look at a compass or top map.

    And I am sure the thought of snaring, butchering and cooking a rabbit or squirrel would turn most of their stomachs.

    Hard to believe, but there is a whole other bunch of crazies out there in our woods!
    So true! I suppose people who never venture beyond their local city park probably consider anyone that actually hikes outside city limits to be an "expert hiker". In my mind an expert hiker knows basic bushcraft. It's hard to imagine being considered an expert if you can't make fire even with matches and petroleum (one article stated that she had both on her). I am certainly not an expert on the level of Mors Kochanski but I at least know how to build a fire, craft a shelter and use a whistle!

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    It's a relative term isn't it? If someone doesn't hike then someone that has logged hundreds of miles is an expert in comparison. It really depends on who is doing the describing and what background they have. We're defining "expert" with much different criteria than the writer of the article did I'm sure.

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    She survived for 26+ days after leaving the trail. She spent a day trying to find the trail and seeking higher ground trying to send text messages from her cell phone, then she decided her best course of action was to stay put and let rescuers find her, and spent the next 25 days camped out in the spot that she died.

    I think she probably did what most people would have done, tried to find the trail and or cell phone reception, and then waited for rescue.

    I found one article that said it looked like she attempted a fire under a tree. It did say she had a whistle, so I am guessing she must have not heard the searchers who came within 100 yards of her during the search.
    Another article said she had a personal locator beacon device but it was left in the hotel room with the husband, but not sure how good the source on this is.

    She survived for over 3 weeks after the initial search was called off.

    If she could have gotten a large smokey fire going, or set up her tent in a more visible area, maybe things could have turned out better.

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    I joined the Florida Trail Association back a couple of decades ago.

    The organization was made up of people whose priority was to hike from point A to point B along a well blazed trail in as little of time as possible. While leaving as little sign as possible.

    The meetings were amazingly boring. With slide shows of poop and piles of paper on some rock. Explaining leave no trace and the importance of never losing sight of the previous blaze mark until you saw the next blaze mark.

    They never saw any real wildlife and talked mainly about making good time. If they saw an alligator or a hawk they took pictures and bragged about it. Seriously, Florida is filled with alligators and hawks.

    They thought we were bad people because we hunt and have camp fires.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Batch View Post
    I joined the Florida Trail Association back a couple of decades ago.

    The organization was made up of people whose priority was to hike from point A to point B along a well blazed trail in as little of time as possible. While leaving as little sign as possible.

    The meetings were amazingly boring. With slide shows of poop and piles of paper on some rock. Explaining leave no trace and the importance of never losing sight of the previous blaze mark until you saw the next blaze mark.

    They never saw any real wildlife and talked mainly about making good time. If they saw an alligator or a hawk they took pictures and bragged about it. Seriously, Florida is filled with alligators and hawks.

    They thought we were bad people because we hunt and have camp fires.
    LOL. I had an encounter with some of those folks down at Kicco WMA. It didn't go well.

  17. #17

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    I'm speechless. Things seem to be very, very different back east. I hike and camp in the mountains out west and hikers like those described back east would not do well where I go.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    I would suppose the speculation can go on for quite a while.
    Hopefully everyone reading and posting is mentally making note in regards to their own activities.

    Hiking can be the discussed time/distance, add in minimalist gear, and snobbery.....may be a definition for disaster, but that is what "their" goals are.

    I may take 12 hours to walk 1 mile.....a few steps at a time, often sitting in one place for hours....but my goals a much different, as is the gear I carry.....Then there is the idea may I may have to drag a 150 pound dead animal, or carry a 25 pound turkey up and down ridges...... to get back out of the woods.

    I will not speculate on others goals and methods......nor do I fell qualified to judge who is or is not an expert.......
    This whole situation is just sad....and shows possible bad judgment....But am glad the family found out what happened.
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    And this was along the Appalachian Trail. All she had to do was head in one direction. Follow the sun or whatever. In a day, two tops, she would have found a road. I get that it's Maine but it's not Alaska.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    " ... And I am sure the thought of snaring, butchering and cooking a rabbit or squirrel would turn most of their stomachs.

    Hard to believe, but there is a whole other bunch of crazies out there in our woods!
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